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Budget talks dominate CEIDC meeting

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070722 budet talks

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – On Tuesday, June 28, the CEIDC board met to begin working out details of their 2023 budget.

The first order of business was to elect new board member Wade Thomas to the Vice-President position. The remainder of the meeting focused on budget amendments. One of the major topics concerning the budget was breaking items into categories that would clarify where the money was going. Some of the categories appeared to be vague such as “Consulting services,” in which funds were actually used for IT support or the purchase of computer equipment, or leased copy equipment that had been coded to “Supplies.” Board members agreed that creating a couple of new line items might better explain what certain funds are being used for.

Dick Murchison, who was recently hired to help the CEIDC with their financial reports and budget, reminded the board that when they raise the budget in one area, they need to lower it in another area to keep it balanced. “All in all, it doesn’t look bad, with the exception of the repairs [going over budget]. And those just happen. It’s just that you didn’t anticipate them. It’s not a problem.”

The changes will take place when the budget is amended in September. “You need to amend the budget,” Murchison said, “or the auditors will write you up.”

Executive Director James Gentry told the board that in looking at the current budget, they had targeted an average monthly sales tax of $50k, but that had increased over the last eight months, “And I project we’ll probably do as well this coming year.” He believes that the CEIDC is looking at $665k for next year over the $600k they received this year. Murchison concurred, “With the price of sales and services, the sales tax should definitely go up.”

Thomas asked the board to consider paying down one of the notes early, noting that it could save City or CEIDC $30 to $35k in interest by making a substantial payment on the loans. “If you wait much longer, you lose the effectiveness of making a move like that [to pay it down]. But we have money sitting there, and we just need to see if we made a payment, would it leave us with enough to feel comfortable if somebody came to town, and we could say we’ve got the money to make this happen.”

This precipitated a lengthy discussion about the controversial $1.5 million note procured by the CEIDC.

“This is the one,” Thomas said, “that the public gets in an uproar about and doesn’t understand the situation at the time. When the state school closed, that was devastating to this community and a loss of 200 jobs and everything else, so the city was in a panic.”

He added that “the city wasn’t exactly in a position financially where they could swing this deal, but the CEIDC board was. And so, with the city’s blessing and backing of the note, they went forward, borrowed the money and fixed up the school, and went on from there. If I had been on the board then, I would have asked what’s our equity position? That’s something where, here again, we were being nice and doing good for the community, and no good deed goes unpunished. So when this property has been sold twice, and entities in our community have profited from that because of the actions of this group, there was no thanks and no sharing of funds. They weren’t obligated to. I get it. I don’t know how it will be viewed in the public if we decide to pay down that note. I’d like to think that they would think that’s a positive thing.”

Board member NaTrenia Hicks interjected her thoughts. “The way I see the whole situation is that we just need to do the right thing. What we’re led to do the right thing, no matter how anyone perceives it. Everyone’s gonna have a different view. So we just need to do the right thing and do our part.”

“One thing that’s kind of confusing to me,” Murchison said, “is that you’ve budgeted $600k as income a draw note. I don’t get that terminology. A draw note is not income.”

Gentry replied, “Actually, that was before my time.”

“I understand,” replied Murchison, “but that doesn’t mean we need to go on that way. A $600k draw note is just not income. It’s cash, or you funds have the ability to access it, but it’s not income. I’m assuming the offset to that is the line item, Prospect Incentives. And I think Wade is correct in the fact that it’s the unknown that disturbs people.”

“When we got that $1,300,000, that’s when that draw note came into play,” said Gentry. “The city approved and backed us for that million and a half dollars. And prior to this spreadsheet, instead of $600k, it was a million and a half dollars put there.”
“So at a bank somewhere in this town, you have a line of credit for a million and a half,” asked Murchison.

“Now it’s $600k,” Gentry replied. “Because the city came back, and their retribution to us and said, no we want you just to have $600k. So we adjusted it.”

“Yeah, but that’s exempt. You don’t have a line of credit at Prosperity Bank. Do you?”

“Yes,” replied Gentry.

“You have a line of credit? I’m not trying to be argumentative. I’m just asking if you call up Brandon and say I need to draw down on my line of credit, can I get it today? Can I get it tomorrow? And what’s your collateral?”
Gentry responded, “It’s the sales tax.”

“I can tell you from experience with the hospital district,” said Murchison, “when you borrow more than your annual revenue, you’re in violation. You are not supposed to be able to borrow more than you can pay back in one year. Because you are governmental, you can’t have a long-term debt without being bonded.

Well, a line of credit is something that normally if they provide you with a line-of-credit, you’re gonna pay a one-percent fee, even if you don’t use your line-of-credit. I do think it would be a good idea to have your banker come and say, listen we want to be sure we have a good understanding that if we are going to go out and spend $324k, can we look to you guys for the money and hopefully the answer is yes. And I’m assuming the city is going to co-sign or they’re going to stand for it, because you don’t have anything to offer for collateral. And I don’t really understand what the collateral is on your existing loan with Prosperity. It has to be with the endorsement of the city.”

Murchison also backed the idea of paying off the outstanding debt as soon as possible. “That’s a no-brainer.”

The proposal will be given to the city who has the ability to adjust the budget as they see fit. Gentry told the board that the city wanted them to submit their proposed budget by the end of July. “They can approve or disapprove,” Gentry said, “but normally they’ve approved it every year. The only adjustment they made four years ago with changing the one-and-a-half million to six-hundred thousand.

“I’d visit with your banker and see what that understanding is, and then make your budget decision from there. I wouldn’t have a draw that could potentially spend over the allowed amount.”

Thomas commented, “We may need to have a second workshop to bring in [Brandon] and have a conversation with us.”
Murchison interjected, “Or if he can just provide you a document showing what you have. That’s all you need is a document, and if that’s what you got, then that’s what you got, and you’re good.”

Gentry told the board, “If you have time, read the documents in your packet. And if you have questions, we can talk about them. It will give you all a better feel for when the finances were established over the last 10 or 12 years. It talks about not only the million-and-a-half dollars but the USDA loan as well.”

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Man accused of holding woman captive; sexual assault

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070722 YarbroughTrenton Edward YarbroughBy Chris Edwards
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CROCKETT – A man was arrested last week in Crockett and accused of holding a woman against her will and sexually assaulting her.
According to Crockett Chief of Police Clayton Smith, patrol officers with Crockett Police Department were dispatched last Monday, June 27, to meet with a complainant about an assault that occurred on a property within the city.

Smith said that while the complainant spoke with the officers, she alleged that Trenton Edward Yarbrough, a 33-year-old Crockett man, held her against her will and sexually assaulted her.

Yarbrough was later located walking in the 800 block of North Fourth Street and was taken into custody and interviewed with CPD’s sexual assault investigator.

Yarbrough was booked into the Houston County Jail on several charges: assault of a family or household member by impeding breath or circulation; sexual assault; unlawful restraint and possession of marijuana (<2 ounces).

The sexual assault charge is a second-degree felony and the assault charge a third-degree felony. Yarbrough remains in custody of the jail.

Smith issued a press release about the investigation and noted that it was “purposely left vague,” due to the fact that the alleged incident “was not a random act of violence, as the victim and Yarbrough were acquainted with each other.”

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, please call the Crockett Police Department at 936-544-2021 or the Family Crisis Center of East Texas at 1-800-828-SAFE (7233) or by text at 936-552-9256.

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TxDOT projects approved

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063022 txdot projects

LUFKIN – Texas Transportation Commissioners on Thursday approved more than $931 million in new construction projects statewide, with more than $100 million approved for the Lufkin District.

Houston County was approved for a $31.9 million construction project that is earmarked for a bridge replacement on SH 7 at the Trinity River. R. Construction Civil, LLC, of Buffalo, will serve as contractor for the construction project. No timeline for completion has been set.

Angelina County was approved for a $63.1 million construction project that will upgrade US 59 in Redland. The main lanes of US 59 will be reconstructed along with the construction of new northbound and southbound frontage roads from FM 2021 to .34 miles north of SL 287 in Lufkin.

The project was designed and is being built to interstate standards. US 59 serves as an evacuation route and the upgrade with enhance safety and mobility in the area. Longview Bridge and Road, LTD. Longview, will serve as contractor for the 2.5-mile construction project. Not timeline for completion has been set.

More than $4.8 million was approved for districtwide safety improvements and hazard elimination in various locations. AR Brothers Construction Services, Inc., San Augustine TX., will serve as contractor. No timeline for completion has been set.

As these projects begin, pre-construction meetings will be held to determine timelines. Signage will be set in work zones announcing pending construction. Motorists are advised to stay alert and be aware for workers and machinery near the lanes of traffic. Reduce speed and obey all traffic control. Fines double when workers are present.

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Motorists must slow down, move over for emergency vehicles

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063022 move over for emsBe sure to look out for emergency vehicles this July 4.

AUSTIN – Drivers traveling for the July Fourth holiday should remember that state law requires them to slow down or move over when tow trucks and other emergency vehicles – police, fire, EMS and highway response trucks – are stopped on the side of the road with their lights activated.

Texas traffic laws require drivers to leave the lane closest to the emergency vehicles stopped on the road (if the road has more than one lane traveling in the same direction) OR to slow down at least 20 miles per hour below the speed limit.

“Please help keep our highway heroes – plus you and your family – safe by obeying traffic laws that require drivers to move over or slow down when emergency vehicles are stopped on the side of the road,” said Mike Arismendez Jr., executive director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). “Let’s all enjoy the holiday weekend and get home safe.”

TDLR regulates the towing industry as well as the Driver Education and Safety program.

Safety tips for driving this July 4:

• Slow down and pay attention to what you’re doing. If you get tired, pull over in a safe spot and walk around to re-energize.

• Don’t drink and drive, even a little bit.

• Designate a (sober) driver.

• Stay off the mobile phone – this includes texting. Designate a “co-pilot” to oversee the phone while you’re driving so you can concentrate on the task at hand.

• Stay weather-aware. We’re not expecting bad weather, but this is Texas and you never know.

Leave plenty of time to get to your destination. Roadways are likely to be crowded.

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Fugitives added to Texas 10 Most Wanted

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063022 texas most wanted

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has added two fugitives to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Lists. Raynaldo Farias Tijerina, of San Antonio, is on the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List. Cecil Colby Smith, of Dallas, is on the Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders List. Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to Tijerina’s arrest and up to $3,000 for Smith’s. All tips are guaranteed to be anonymous.

Raynaldo Farias Tijerina, 44, is affiliated with the Tango Blast gang. He’s been wanted since October 2021, when the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office issued warrants for his arrest for invasive visual recording and possession of child pornography. The Texas Board of Probation and Paroles issued a warrant for Tijerina’s arrest the following month for a parole violation.

In 1995, Tijerina was convicted of murder and was sentenced to 30 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison. While in prison, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to an additional 15 years. Tijerina was released on parole in January 2017.

Tijerina is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs about 195 pounds. He has tattoos on his face, neck, abdomen, left arm and left leg. He has brown eyes but may wear colored contacts. For more information or in the event of his arrest, view his wanted bulletin.

Cecil Colby Smith, 40, has been wanted since August 2021, when the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office issued a warrant for his arrest for child abuse by injury. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office also issued a warrant in December 2021, for failure to register as a sex offender.

In 2002, Smith was convicted of violating a protective order/assault/stalking and was sentenced to four years of probation. In 2003, Smith was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual assault of a child for incidents with a 13-year-old girl and was sentenced to five years in a TDCJ prison. In 2011, Smith was convicted of murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to eight years. He was released from prison in 2017.

Smith is 6 feet tall and weighs about 185 pounds. He has tattoos on his left cheek, neck, chest, both arms, both wrists and left hand. In addition to Dallas, he also has ties to Longview, Amarillo and the state of Oklahoma. For more information or in the event of his arrest, view his wanted bulletin.
Texas Crime Stoppers, which is funded by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division, offers cash rewards to any person who provides information that leads to the arrest of one of Texas’ 10 Most Wanted Fugitives or Sex Offenders. So far in 2022, DPS and other agencies have arrested 32 people off the lists, including 14 gang members and 18 sex offenders. In addition, $54,000 in rewards has been paid for tips that yielded arrests.

To be eligible for cash rewards, tipsters MUST provide information to authorities using one of the following three methods: Call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477).

Submit a web tip through the DPS website by selecting the fugitive you have information about and then clicking on the link under their picture.
Submit a Facebook tip by clicking the “SUBMIT A TIP” link (under the “About” section).

All tips are anonymous — regardless of how they are submitted — and tipsters will be provided a tip number instead of using a name.

DPS investigators work with local law enforcement agencies to select fugitives for the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and Sex Offenders Lists. You can find the current lists — with photos — on the DPS website.

Do not attempt to apprehend these fugitives; they are considered armed and dangerous.

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